Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Supreme Court rejects torture victims' suit

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid Monday by five former U.S. captives to revive their lawsuit accusing a Bay Area flight-planning company of arranging for the CIA to send them to countries where they were tortured.

The men said in their suit that they had been tortured in overseas prisons as terrorism suspects. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the suit dismissed in September, agreeing with the Obama administration that the case could threaten national security.

On Monday, the high court denied a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union asking it to intervene on the grounds that the government had misused the "state secrets" privilege to deny justice to torture victims.

"The Supreme Court has refused once again to give justice to torture victims and to restore our nation's reputation as a guardian of human rights and the rule of law," ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said.

The Obama administration has said it tries to limit state-secrets claims in court cases by requiring a Justice Department committee and Attorney General Eric Holder to agree to each one.

But the ACLU, in its Supreme Court filing, said presidents have increasingly used overblown national security claims to shield "a broad range of official misconduct ... from judicial review."

The Bay Area lawsuit relied on information that has been publicly disclosed, the group said.

The suit by the five men was filed against Jeppesen Dataplan of San Jose, a Boeing Co. subsidiary. The government - both President George W. Bush's administration and the Obama administration - entered the case and argued for dismissal.

The case involves extraordinary rendition, the practice of abducting suspected terrorists and taking them for interrogation to CIA prisons or foreign countries.

A 2007 Council of Europe report described Jeppesen as the CIA's aviation services provider. A court declaration in the men's suit quotes a Jeppesen director as telling staffers in 2006 that the company handled the CIA's "torture flights."

One of the plaintiffs gave an account of abuse, including the slicing of his genitals with a razor blade by captors in Morocco, that a U.S. judge found credible in a separate case in 2009.

In that case, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of Washington, D.C., found that Binyam Mohamed had been "physically and psychologically tortured" in captivity. She barred the government from introducing as evidence statements that Mohamed had given to interrogators about an inmate at the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The case is Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, 10-778.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at

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